Christ. If I could write my season finale review solely in emojis tonight, I would. It's the only way I can properly express how I'm feeling right now. It's all over the goddamn place.
"Trust your heart." -Auggie
"Get it? She literally cannot trust her heart. I see what you did there, writers. You think you're so clever." -Katie (cousin of The Plopper)
I'm going to have to review this ep quickly, because I need to get to my season 5 review, and I have a LOT to say. So I'll cover 5.16 quickly: First off, WTFFFF ANNIE!? What did you talk about with McQuaid the entire rest of that stroll on the bridge?? Was it, "Oh cool let's just talk about the weather and the Mets now and for the entire 12 hour flight home" ?? (Disclaimer: I do not actually know how long it takes to get from Buenos Aires to D.C. But I bet there is at least one connector.) "K bye hon I'm not gonna marry you, instead I'm gonna just go back to my depressing apartment and make a cup of tea on my hot plate!!" Great call, Annie.
Annie, also, why would you even consider going back to the CIA!? You have it SO cushy at McQuaid Security right now. Granted, there is that whole bankruptcy issue I guess, but I'm sure they'll get that sorted. I can't even properly convey to you how right McQuaid was when he said "You can do this job and die, and you can not do this job and die." Did you know I took a 4-day Business Analysis class 7 years ago and ALMOST GOT TUBERCULOSIS from it?? That's right, a guy in there had TB the whole time and he was ON MY TEAM!! WE TOUCHED THE SAME MARKERS. I had to spend the next 3 months leading into my wedding getting tested repeatedly, and for what!? Because I was taking such a risk that could have gotten me TB? A business. fucking. analysis. class. ON the CAMPUS of my company. I didn't even drive the fucking hour north to San Francisco for this. I didn't even trip over a coughing bum in the Tenderloin to contract this shit. Nope. My life was so dull that I may as well have already been lying in a goddamn coma that week and I STILL almost got TB. Annie, DON'T WASTE YOUR LIFE girl, don't do it. It gets you nothing at all but 3 months of worrying about getting drug-resistant TB right before your wedding!! I could have been on a hospital gurney at the altar all alone, while all my guests avoided my plague-infested wedding like, well, the plague!! :deep breath:
Let's take a step back for a sec. The biggest feeling I'm having right now is that they didn't totally fuck it (the season) all up right at the end. They didn't drop The Myocarditis storyline like I was afraid they would, they didn't drop the Belenko illness connection, and they managed to tie up a majority of the loose ends, even if it all felt a bit rushed in the process (these things usually do unless it's Game of Thrones). Auggie's Week From Hell also ended in a way that made sense given what he had gone through. Joan's Balkans secret, though, like ALL of Joan's mysteries, will remain just that. So if you're a Joan fan, you may be rightfully pissed as hell right now. (Counterpoint: Her delivery of "Ah he was being a dick," might be enough to save the entire world).
The problem I have with this ep is that the last 10 minutes were waaaayyyy too confusing. And I don't think it was just me. I think a couple of those scenes were poorly written or poorly edited. In Annie's last convo with Belenko, what in god's name was she talking about - who was getting revenge on the Russians, exactly?? Who is the enemy of what enemy? Is this Belenko's revenge, Annie's revenge, or both?? I can't figure out why Annie would be so nice to Belenko after he had just tried to kill Auggie. Did Belenko tip her off on purpose with that phone, or on accident?? Was she just blowing smoke up his ass to prep him for his little "talk" with Joan? It was overly confusing.
But I dunno. Despite all this, the episode certainly did its job in leaving me hanging on every second of the ending ... biting my nails and having a myocarditis attack, and then flipping my shit at the cliffhanger. With this plus the decent job of following up on loose ends, the ep mostly accomplished its goal. So I'm not gonna complain too much.
Now I gotta get to season 5 as a whole. This review is gonna be long ... so get ready. I'm gonna keep it simple by splitting this out into the good stuff and bad stuff. Here goes.
Season 5. The Good Stuff.
Annie didn’t go home after Hong Kong. Some of you know that the ending they filmed for S4 was very different than what actually aired. The original ending involved Annie coming straight back home, quitting the CIA, and having a beer with Auggie. Scrapping this ending at the very last minute was one of the best decisions the Covert showrunners have ever made as far as I’m concerned. They avoided painting themselves into a corner that could’ve been nearly as obnoxious as Henry’s stupid folder at the end of S3. O.k. not that obnoxious, but still. When I watched Annie sail away on that boat, all I could think was that the saddest, most boring route they could possibly take her would be straight back home to the shitty lameness that awaited her there. Praise Teo Campbell that they had mercy on our girl and let her fly the coop for a while for the sake of her own sanity and self-respect.
And then the icing on the cake – Her return home from her time away in the season 5 premiere was deliciously mysterious. After spending far too much of season 4 running around trying to solve everyone else’s problems for them, the writers finally let Annie be interesting in her own right again (after, to be fair, starting to get back on track with her in the fall of season 4). Welcome back, Annie.
Covert Affairs regains its logic and sanity. Season 4 was SO illogical at nearly every major turn that it bordered on SOA-levels of absurdity. We were consistently expected to believe that these characters would behave in these ridiculous ways, without coming even within the ballpark of explaining WHY they would be doing any of it (read my S4 review for reference). This show is never perfect when it comes to logic, but thank the Holy Ghost of Puma they took a deep breath and got back to the realm of sanity in season 5. Other than the premiere, I can't think of one ep this season that had me screaming at my TV for significant logic problems.
Annie and Auggie use their words. Sort of. In short, angry bursts. Other than Helesa herself, nothing was more infuriating to me in S4 than Annie & Auggie’s sedated noodle-slurping and refusal to discuss ANY of the horrible shit they had done to each other in the second half of the season. But in season 5, the angels sang down from the heavens and the simmering anger fiiiinnally started to boil over. Annie stealing Tash’s flash drive and using it with Ivan was one of the best sequences I’ve ever seen on this show. I hadn’t cheered so loudly at my TV screen since, well, one of the crazy twists on GoT S4 I’m sure. And Auggie’s bottle-smashing anger along with the resulting fight was just as fun. Better yet, the outbursts between them continued as the season went on. They were short every time, but I’ll take whatever the hell I can get from these two at this point. Ya ain’t never gonna work out any of your shit if you keep pretending it ain’t there, sweeties.
Annie’s challenge. Despite the weird usage of myocarditis as Annie’s heart condition instead of other heart conditions that can realistically be caused by bullet wounds (per research done by fans who are not me haha), I was actually extremely pleasantly shocked to see that the writers included this storyline, primarily because it meant Annie was finally facing some kind of consequence for all that happened to her in season 3. One doesn’t generally get shot twice in the heart parts and even live to tell the tale, let alone walk away without requiring any physical therapy, with PTSD that magically resolves itself within one television episode, and with zero scar from open-heart surgery. Even Annie’s devastation over Simon’s death cleared right up the second the next cutie showed her one iota of attention. The magical Peen of St. Augustine healed all, and the writers washed their hands of it so they could focus on more important things, i.e. ex-dead wives from hell (great choice). So for Annie to finally have to face a real consequence for all this was a long time coming.
And I found this storyline to be very effective, particularly through ep 5.08. It forced Annie completely off the tracks and out of her element, and it's in these types of scenarios that a character really becomes interesting. She had to do some serious self-examination on her obsession with her job and the consequences that can arise from it. We all know of The Annie Problem, a.k.a. Anndroid, that existed for about a full season starting in fall season 3. You can read my season 4 review for that issue too. But season 5 did something I had nearly given up on when I wrote that review - it made Annie human again. She was once again a fallible, mortal creature just like the rest of us. We could relate to her again. She was no longer Teflon. I am really, really reeaaaally glad they didn't let this storyline drop like I was afraid they would. Reeeheaheaaaally glad.
McQuaid. Sorry, Auggie fans. Read my season 4 reviews and you’ll see that I was just as pissed as you were when the writers took a big fat diarrhea dump all over Walkerson last season. But what’s done is done, and it was done so severely in S4 that we can't just snap our fingers and fix it. It'll never be what it was again. Given that, some upheaval was needed as a next step.
Enter Ryan McQuaid to shake shit up. He’s brash, cocky, badass, rich as hell, and the foil to many people's "OTP". This character was bound to be a complete douchebag, right? In the hands of most actors, he would be. But in the vein of Captain Awesome on Chuck, they went a different route with McQuaid. Ryan McPartlin somehow turned his would-be pretentious jerk - an obnoxiously successful doctor with the face and body of a greek god – into the sweetest and most loveable character on the planet. Nic Bishop, like McPartlin, has somehow been able to turn this should-be prick McQuaid into someone you’d trust with your life if you were thrown into a terrorist hotzone or some other horrible situation. Is the guy too good to be true? Maybe, but on top of his borderline douchey qualities, it’s also been made fairly clear that he’s perfectly willing to throw a good chunk of his morals out the window if it’ll get him closer to catching a bad guy. No wonder he and Annie get along so well (He’s essentially her with a penis, which could certainly get them into trouble in the future, but for now I’m enjoying the hell out of them).
Annie spent almost exactly a full season being celibate post-Auggie, so it was high time the ol’ gal got to have some action again. And in the wake of the season 4 melodrama, there was nothing she needed more in the romance department than a guy she could count on to stick with her even when the going got tough. McQuaid knew what he was getting into with her from almost day 1 (ok well, by episode 2, when he picked her up unconscious on that dock in Venezuela). Let’s be honest, homegirl was a hot mess for the first half of the season, and yet he didn’t flinch. And I'm gonna just set aside tonight's proposal for a sec (which was certainly a fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants thing) so I can say: Other than that, do NOT try to tell me the writers pushed this relationship too fast. These two spent 8 full episodes going through all measures of craziness together before they even so much as kissed. Don’t forget that in season 3, the Simon relationship had run its *entire course* by the end of ep 8. R.I.P. Simon. The writers clearly cared about the McWalker relationship, because they really put in the time and effort to build the thing brick by brick. And it worked so well that a LOT of us were reacting just like I did above to tonight's finale. A lot of us.
Extra credit: Baby Mack. I’ll admit that before season 5 started, there was absolutely nothing on this earth that I wanted to watch less than Baby Mack being burped and put into his crib for his afternoon naps. But the kid was not only used mercifully sparingly, he was (is) also one of the cutest damn things I’ve ever seen. He charmed me. Kudos to little Jude Matchett, baby actor of the year.
Season 5. The Bad Stuff.
The B plots in the summer season. Season 5 improved on season 4 in nearly every way, except this. I don't recall S4 having this issue. Thankfully S5's B plots all finally came together in the fall, but during those first 8 or 9 eps, they were slightly reminiscent of a “Dana Brody Dates a Delinquent Boy” (or let’s be honest, “Dana Brody Does ANY Stupid Obnoxious Thing”) story. “Dana Brody Avoids Getting Hit By That Truck And You Curse The Driver For His Bad Aim”. O.k. I’m done now. After watching Homeland, it’s hard for any B plot to seem that horrible to me as long as it’s not taking up too much screentime. And these ones didn’t, but if you’re a Calder fan, this was NOT a good season for you. I feel your pain. At least it got better in the fall? He looked cool in this ep ...
Like Calder, Auggie’s summer season was also not super great. It was far better than Calder’s, but it could have been better. He spent most of the summer running around getting himself into trouble with his peen, and it felt pointless and kinda depressing for him. But again, I have trouble getting too worked up about his because not only did it come together for him in the fall, but he became the focus of the entire season-long mission. He had major time in the sun in eps 5.12 & 14; possibly more so (that I can recall?) than in season 3 or any season before that. So ... frustrating for a while, but it came together for our boy Auggie.
Predictability. The show has had this problem for a while now. It was a problem throughout season 4, and it continued in season 5 with the Caitlyn Cook storyline. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a “twist” telegraphed from that far away (probably since “Helesa is alive!!”) haha. From the second she walked on screen, we ALL knew she was gonna be shady. Now, I said in S4 that I FAR prefer a good story to just trying to throw in twists everywhere, and I love that S5 shifted its focus to just telling a good story. But because the Caitlyn thing was posed as a "twist", it didn't work. If you're gonna focus on simply telling the story, then, awesome, but just do that, rather than trying to make it into something it's not.
Residual incoherence problems. Covert Affairs very often has problems translating the story they want to tell into what actually plays out on our screens. In S5, the writers' biggest failure to communicate was in the cause of Annie's heart condition. And what absolutely kills me about this is that it wouldn’t have even required one second of extra screen time to tell the story properly. All the writers would’ve had to do would be to ever-so-slightly adjust the wording of the Eyal/Annie flashback convo in 5.04 and it would have been crystal clear. Instead, half their audience was left wondering if The Myocarditis was just a completely random coincidence. If you don't know what caused it, it takes away a majority of the story's meaning and significance. :headdesk:
Not quite enough home runs. Season 5 was quite consistent with like a solid B to B+ average on episodes. Unlike S4's wild ride, S5 only dipped below an 80/100 on my reviews once (S4 did it 5 times & 3 of those dipped into the 60's). They did knock it out of the park quite well with eps 5.02 & 5.07. 5.14 was a fan favorite so I'll give that a shout-out too. I just wish they'd done a few more eps that jumped into the 90+ grade range.
Season 5. The Summary.
Look, nothing this show has done has matched the greatness of eps 3.01-3.11, and it likely never will. But part of that was the circumstances of the moment - it was coming out of its first 2 decent-but-nothing-super-special seasons, and critics had written it off as nothing more than that. And then suddenly it popped - out of nowhere, when no one expected it. They captured lightning in a bottle and it's hard to get back there as expectations rise. You take risks to keep it up and, well, the way risks work is that they don't always pan out.
Season 4 took a LOT of risks and had some great moments, but stumbled a lot. But the thing it really did right in its last few eps was to start the show back on a path to re-discovering their lead character.
Season 5 succeeded where season 4 had failed in its logic and focus issues. It succeeded where fall of S3 & the summer of S4 had failed in bringing us back to Annie. A huge part of what made 3.01-11 so great was that we were really WITH Annie. We were in her head. We related to her. We understood her motivations and we felt her feels with her. And then suddenly that all went away post-Russia. She closed off and we were shut out of her head. And that sucked. Season 4 did not convince us why she & Auggie broke up or why they did anything they did with each other past ep 4.06. It also didn't even come close to convincing us why she went dark. We spent far too much of that time still shut out and confused and cold and alone. Shiver.
The biggest success of season 5 was in letting us back in. I haven't felt this "with" Annie for this long in, maybe ever. I fully got her every thought and feel and motivation this season. Every major decision she made was exactly what I would've done (I'm ignoring tonight's last 10 minutes for now haha). That's right, especially in moments like the end of ep 5.09 when she let McQuaid go and lied to Auggie. Especially when she was on that mountain in Azerbaijan, tearing her hair out in frustration and hopelessness. Especially in Paris when she stole that flash drive and took care of business. Especially in ALL those types of moments. I, The Plopper, was at one with Annie Walker.
How you prioritize different elements of any TV show has a monumental effect on how much you enjoy each ep and season. If Walkerson is your #1 concern, then you undoubtedly HATED season 5. For Covert, I prioritize a) the telling of stories that actually make reasonable sense, and b) the success of their lead character, given their issues with her in the past. And because of that, I quite enjoyed season 5. I hope USA Network treats this show better than it did White Collar, because I need more of it.
Ep 5.16 GRADE: 88/100
Season 5 GRADE: 88/100
Blow me to bits with a grenade in the comments. That sentence could have gone very differently.
Recent reviews by the writer, below:
12 December 2014
The Plopper Reviews COVERT AFFAIRS 5.15 'Frontwards'
5 December 2014
The Plopper Reviews COVERT AFFAIRS 5.14 'Transport is Arranged'
21 November 2014
The Plopper Reviews COVERT AFFAIRS 5.13 'She Believes'